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Reading to Reset and Rejuvenate

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

For many of us, summer brings an opportunity to go on vacation. Every year, my husband Steve and I head to the beach for a week before Memorial Day. We feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and try to take advantage of every minute to reset and rejuvenate.

This year, the vacation gave me the opportunity to rediscover my joy of reading. When I was younger, I devoured a book or two a week. As my career changes brought more responsibilities and greater demands on my time, my reading for personal and professional development — and simple pleasure — waned. But because reading is such a powerful way for me to reset and rejuvenate, I’ve tried to make more time for it; and on this vacation, I succeeded. Here is what I read.

  • Gray Mountain, by John Grisham. Grisham’s novels are easy reads and based on lawyers struggling with tough ethical issues. This story took place in Appalachia and focused on a low-income law clinic in a struggling coal mining town.
  • The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café, by Alexander McCall Smith. A Scottish writer, Smith has written a series of books placed in Botswana about a lady’s detective service titled "The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency."
  • Gifts from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I brought this book along with the idea that what I read would be reinforced when sitting on the beach. Although I was only able to finish three chapters, the book was rich with life lessons and the importance of slowing down periodically to re-evaluate and reset our lives.

All three books provided entertainment as well as a couple of lessons for me. First, getting back to being a reader has taken time and did not happen overnight, and I am still working on it. And that is okay. Many changes we make are like a reset that one needs to continually reinforce. As Wendell Berry wrote, "Having chosen one way, one is not free of the opposite way. We must keep choosing."

Second, each of these books contained lessons about leadership and working with people. Both Grisham’s and Smith’s books showed the ethical dimensions of decision-making in managing people and working with others, and the courage that is often required. Lindbergh’s book highlighted the many dimensions of our lives, including the spiritual and emotional.

Reading novels can help us do our jobs better, and give us a broader view of the world and our lives. What have you read recently that helped you reset and rejuvenate?

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